On 29 July the Home Office updated their immigration guidance relating to coronavirus announcing that visa holders whose visa expired before 31 July 2020 and had been granted an extension to 31 July (as they were unable to leave the UK as planned due to Covid-19 restrictions**) will not be able to extend again on this basis and are expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK. The guidance does state, however, that a grace period until 31 August 2020 has been provided during which existing visa conditions will continue for those making arrangements to leave the UK.
There is no requirement to contact the Home Office to request the grace period to 31 August 2020 or inform them that you are able to leave before this date.
The guidance explains that where a visa holder intends to leave but is not able to do so by 31 August 2020 they may request additional time to stay, known as 'exceptional indemnity' by contacting the Home Office's Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT). A link to an email address for the Coronavirus Immigration Team is provided within the Home Office guidance page.
It is important to note, however, that 'exceptional indemnity' is not an extension of visa conditions or rights to reside and work in the UK, it only acts as a short-term protection against any adverse action or consequences after your visa and rights have expired while you are trying to arrange to leave the UK. Details and supporting evidence of why you are unable to leave the UK before 31 August 2020 will be required when requesting an 'exceptional indemnity'.
If a job opportunity or other change arises and a visa holder who was intending to leave meets the requirements to apply under a different visa route they will be able to do so from within the UK during the grace period up to 31 August 2020.
Any issues or queries about visa or travel issues for UK visa holders and applicants should be discussed with the Staff Immigration Team (SIT). Students should contact the UAS Student Immigration for more information. Before enquiries can be raised with the Home Office by either team, however, the Home Office would expect the visa holder to have contacted their Coronavirus Immigration Team for advice.
** The Home Office originally granted extensions for Chinese nationals whose visas were expiring before 31 March 2020 and who unable to leave the UK due to Covid-19 restrictions. This was extended to visa holders of all nationalities unable to leave whose visas were expiring before 31 May 2020. There was then a further extension to those with visas expiring before 31 July 2020. The Home Office, however, now states that these automatic extensions have ended as travel restrictions are being lifted globally.